News of Otsego County

Serving Otsego County, NY, through the combined reporting of Cooperstown's Freeman's Journal and the Hometown Oneonta newspapers.
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Otsego Now

KUZMINSKI: Natural Gas, No! Renewables, Yes!… AND COUNTY CAN TAKE LEAD

Column by Adrian Kuzminski for August 10, 2018

… AND COUNTY CAN TAKE LEAD

Natural Gas, No!

Renewables, Yes!

Adrian Kuzminski

It’s recently been reported that Otsego Now, the economic development arm of Otsego county, is proposing a natural gas decompression station in Oneonta to help alleviate energy shortages that have plagued some businesses and institutions in the city.
Otsego Now is applying for a $3 million grant to help facilitate the project, which is estimated to cost $17 million.
Currently, SUNY Oneonta, Fox hospital, and Lutz Feeds suffer interrupted gas service during winter cold snaps when demand exceeds supply. Gas service is maintained for residential customers only by having these institutions inconveniently switch over to more expensive oil.
There has been talk of enlarging the existing NYSEG DeRuyter gas pipeline from Norwich to Oneonta. But Otsego Now Executive Director Jody Zakrevsky is quoted as saying that the estimated cost has ballooned to $100 million and may take a decade.
Zakrevsky estimates that the gas needed could be delivered to the proposed decompression station by two or three trucks a day for a couple of weeks a year.
This story leaves me scratching my head. Zakrevsky reports that natural gas is not only cheaper than oil, but that oil “pollutes more.” This ignores compelling evidence, first developed by Cornell University researchers, that natural gas is as much a polluting greenhouse gas as any other fossil fuel.
The pollution comes from cumulative seepage of methane during the life-cycle of natural gas production, from drilling to end-use. By the time the gas would get delivered to Oneonta – in what some call “bomb trucks” – the polluting damage would already have been done, starting back at the well-heads in Pennsylvania.
So why are we looking at the local energy scene solely through the lens of natural gas?
Why is there no serious consideration of non-fossil fuel alternatives?

This schematic of a decompression site is from the website of Algas-SDI, self-identified as “a manufacturer of products and systems for the reliable deployment of clean hydrocarbon fuels worldwide.”

We are facing a climate crisis. Our warm summer days feel good, but Arctic ice is melting, storms are getting more severe, and ecological instability is staring us in the face.
Under these circumstances, as I suggested in an earlier column, any proposal to expand the use of fossil fuels ought, at a minimum, to be accompanied by an equally funded parallel proposal to develop renewable energy.
We don’t have to rely on oil or gas. Efficient, low-cost heat exchange systems, which do not burn fuel, are now widely and cheaply available. The minimal electricity required to run such systems in our area comes from relatively clean hydro-sources.
Otsego Now might do better to forget the decompressor station and apply for a $3 million grant to convert residential and non-industrial systems from natural gas to heat exchange systems, and leave gas to those few situations for which it may be essential.
Somehow, there are always excuses why we can’t do renewables. Zakrevsky tells us that “weather and expensive batteries” are issues. Somehow the weather around here hasn’t stopped other solar projects from going forward.
As for the costs, here is where government subsidies, particularly from New York State, ought to come in. How much solar power is needed to make up for two or three gas trucks a day for a couple of weeks a year? How much solar power capacity can you buy for $17 million? How about a cost-benefit analysis?
For you pro-business people out there leery of borrow-and-spend, remember that’s how the Erie Canal, the railroads, the electrical grid, indeed America itself, mostly got built.
Neither government (socialism) nor business (capitalism) can do it by themselves. Government ought to be giving business the infrastructure it needs so that private enterprise can prosper, and it ought to make sure that the infrastructure we build doesn’t hurt the environment.
These kinds of decisions are too important to be left to a small agency like Otsego Now. What’s needed is comprehensive leadership – perhaps an Otsego County Energy Task Force – drawn from broad sectors of the community.
Other places are already doing it; just Google, for example, the “Tompkins County Energy Roadmap.”
Our Board of Representatives could take the lead in setting up such a Task Force for Otsego County, ideally composed of members from the colleges, businesses, non-profits, and other key sectors.
Once established, the Task Force ought to be empowered to make the decisions now left to Otsego Now. It should prioritize getting renewable energy subsidies, and be prepared to fight for them if they are not available.
Such a Task Force would be crucial in giving Otsego County a voice promoting its energy interests in Albany and beyond – something now sorely lacking.

Adrian Kuzminski, a retired Hartwick College philosophy
professor and Sustainable Otsego moderator, lives in Fly Creek.

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Otsego Now Grant Application Angers Oneonta

Large Crowd Turns Out

At Natural Gas Hearing

Otsego Now CEO Jody Zakrevsky explains his office’s $3 million grant application for a natural gas decompression site in the Oneonta Commerce Park (formerly Pony Farm).  At right is Town Board member Brett Holleran.  (Parker Fish/AllOTSEGO.com)

By PARKER FISH • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

WEST ONEONTA – According to Otsego Now CEO Jody Zakrevsky, Oneonta is running out of gas.

“There is no more gas,” said Zakrevsky, summarizing the gravity of the situation.

Oneonta has struggled with its gas supplies for several years, but now the situation is dire. Zakrevsky’s proposed solution: a compressed natural gas decompression station in the Oneonta Commerce Park, the renamed Pony Farm.

Otsego Now submitted a state Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) July 27, hoping to help finance the estimated $17 million project.

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Southern Tier 8 Opens Oneonta Office

Binghamton Planners

Open Oneonta Office

Southern Tier 8, formerly known as the Southern Tier East Regional Planning Development Board, announced this morning it is opening an office at Otsego Now, on the fifth floor of 189 Main St., Oneonta.  The agency has assisted CADE, the Hartwick College Craft Food & Beverage Center and other municipalities and not-for-profits across eight counties seek funding for projects ranging from economic development to water-quality testing.  Southern Tier 8 also unveiled a new logo and website at the press conference. From left are Southern Tier 8 Secretary Lolene Cornish and Executive Director Jen Gregory, Otsego Now CEO Jody Zakrevsky and Otsego Chamber of Commerce President Barbara Ann Heegan. The new office is set to open in early June. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
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ZAGATA: Christians Told: Help The Poor, But Resist Continental Pipeline

Column by Mike Zagata, April 27, 2018

Christians Told: Help The Poor,

But Resist Continental Pipeline

Mike Zagata

Each week while attending church, a member of the clergy reminds us of our responsibility to assist the poor. Doing so is important and something engrained in us by our parents.
It is especially important in this area because we are part of Appalachia, a region known for its poverty. Indeed, according to Catholic Charity’s definition of poverty, 30 percent, or three out of 10 of Otsego, Delaware and Schoharie counties’ residents live in poverty.
What is interesting about this is that, when the issue of exploring for natural gas in New York was being debated, Oneonta’s churches inserted a flyer opposing fracking for natural gas in their weekly bulletins. The direct result was the loss of the jobs that would have come to the area and thus help lift people out of poverty.
That includes jobs for the BOCES graduates trained as welders, heavy-equipment operators and surveyors.

At the time, there was valid concern that this misunderstood process might contaminate our water and air. Those concerns have not been realized in Pennsylvania and that economy has prospered – more people have jobs as a result.
However, it just seemed inconsistent with what I was hearing about helping the poor to oppose something that could have helped lift them out of poverty.
The real impact on the poor wasn’t fully understood at the time. However, it is now crystal clear.

Otsego Now director Tom Armao alerts Assistant USDA Secretary Anne Hazlett to NYSEG’s failure to provide sufficient natural gas or electricity to Otsego County. With him at the Rural Development Forum at Hartwick College Friday, April 20, was Brooks’ BBQ President Ryan Brooks.

New York State Electric and Gas (NYSEG), now owned by a company headquartered in Spain, was counting on the new source of natural gas and the Constitution Pipeline to enable it to provide Oneonta with the gas it needs.
That means not just gas needed for us to grow, but enough gas (and electricity in the form of three-phase power) to be able to supply the needs of the businesses, institutions and residences that are here now.
NYSEG brings gas to Oneonta via a pipeline from DeRuyter. That pipeline is in a state of disrepair after decades of neglect, and Iberdrola, NYSEG’s Spanish owner, isn’t interested in spending the money it would take to repair the pipeline to the degree that it could deliver enough gas to meet existing demand, no less improve it to the point that it could meet demand from projected growth.
They look at Oneonta as being stagnant and thus not a good place to invest capital. Some are questioning whether or not they are living up to their franchise agreement to provide an adequate gas supply.

You might not know this, but our some of our educational institutions and the hospital are on what is known as “curtailment” with regards to their natural gas supply. That means, if it gets too hot or too cold and the overall demand for natural gas increases beyond NYSEG’s ability to supply it, those institutions must replace their use of natural gas for heating with oil-fired generators.

That is more expensive and increases air pollution.
Things are so bad that Lutz Feed bought a new gas-fired dryer to reduce the moisture content of stored corn and NYSEG told them not to hook it up. Why? because there wasn’t enough natural gas. What does that tell us about the likelihood of Oneonta being able to attract new businesses and manufacturers that could provide jobs to those who need jobs and to the young people who might like to remain here?
The next time the basket is passed in church, put in a little extra to help the poor. You see, we helped keep them that way.

Mike Zagata, former DEC commissioner in the Pataki Administration and environmental executive for Fortune 500 companies, lives in West Davenport.

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EDITORIAL: NYSEG Must Provide Full Range Of Energy

EDITORIAL April 20, 2018

NYSEG Must Provide
Full Range Of Energy

OTHERWISE, OUTMIGRATION INEVITABLE

From NYSEG Facebook page An Otsego Now contingent returned from a March 14 meeting reassured NYSEG’s new president Carl Taylor would help ease local energy shortages.

Let’s not be prophets of doom, but we’re all thinking people who can more or less put the pieces of the puzzle together.

In her March 29-30 column, our colleague,
columnist Cathe Ellsworth, alerted us to an
Albany Business Review report that Upstate
New York lost 2 percent of its population
between 2011 and 2015. Seven counties gained population; 20 lost it.
In our general area, Tompkins County – home of Cornell and Ithaca College – surprisingly lost the second most, 5.1 percent or 5,294 people. Our Otsego County was 11th on the list, losing 2.26 percent or 1,408 people.

The next week on our front page came the story, “Utility Retreats From Gas Pipeline Upgrade,” reporting how the utility serving our county, NYSEG, has backed away from upgrading the DeRuyter natural-gas line that runs to Sidney and then Oneonta, even though it received a rate increase to do so a couple of years ago.
In the article, Otsego Now CEO Jody Zakrevsky reaffirmed NYSEG can’t provide enough natural gas – or electricity, either – that any new manufacturer of any size would require to move here.
A Chinese company looking to establish a manufacturing plant somewhere in the U.S. came calling a few months ago, Zakrevsky continued. “We had proximity to an Interstate, water, sewer – but we could not meet their energy demands, either electrical or gas,” he said. “…Without that power, we’re limiting our ability to compete.”
The news hook for the story was a meeting state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, hosted at his Albany office in mid-March for local business and community leaders to make a plea to NYSEG’s new president, Carl Taylor.

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Otsego Now Hosts Classes In Small Business, Manufacturing

Otsego Now Hosts Classes In

Small Business, Manufacturing

Michelle Catan, senior business adviser with the state’s Small Business Development Center, stands before her Small Business Training class at the Otsego Now offices in Oneonta this morning as part of two weeks of job training. The Otsego County Chamber has been working with SUNY Broome Community College and partnering with Otsego Now in utilizing training rooms and laptops in offering manufacturing basics training.  Participants receive a certificate.  From 2 – 5 p.m. tomorrow (Friday), 10 manufacturers will participate in a job fair at the Otsego Now-Otsego Chamber offices on the fifth floor of 189 Main St., Oneonta, and the public is welcome to participate. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
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Gelbsman Holds On To Otsego Now Seat

Gelbsman Holds On

To Otsego Now Seat

He Won’t Quit, So Reps Keep Him There

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www. AllOTSEGO.com

Craig Gelbsman at last week’s monthly Otsego Now meeting. (AllOTSEGO.com photo)

COOPERSTOWN – It appears former county rep. Craig Gelbsman of Oneonta will remain on the Otsego Now board of directors.

The county board originally appointed Gelbsman to Otsego Now as its “liaison”, intending that he keep the Cooperstown reps in the loop on what the Oneonta-based economic-development entity was up.

Then Republican Gelbsman was defeated by Democrat Adrienne Martini last Nov. 7.  But when his term expired Dec. 31 he continued to sit in on Otsego Now meetings, vote on measures, and last Thursday was elected board secretary.

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Hulse, Joyner, Gelbsman, Lord To Lead Otsego Now

Hulse, Joyner, Gelbsman,

Lord To Lead Otsego Now

IDA Officers Chosen At Today’s Annual Meeting
The Otsego Now board of directors today elected acting chair Rick Hulse, Fly Creek, as chair; Fox Hospital President Jeff Joyner, Oneonta, as vice chair; businessman Craig Gelbsman, Oneonta, secretary, and Community Bank vice president Jeff Lord as treasurer. Posing after the annual meeting are, front row from left, board member Patricia Kennedy, Springbrook; administrative assistant Meaghan Marino, Oneonta; board members Sarah Harvey and Cheryl Robinson, both of Otego, and CEO Jody Zakrevsky.  Second row, from left, are directors Tom Armao, Country Club Automotive, and Lord, Joyner, Hulse and Gelbsman.  At rear is attorney Kurt Schulte, counsel.  (AllOTSEGO.com photo)
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Otsego Electric Spending $3.9 M To Expand High Speed Internet

Otsego Electric Spending $3.9M

To Expand High Speed Internet

Otsego Electric Cooperative CEO Tim Johnson briefs Otsego Now directors this morning on the Hartwick-based cooperative’s $3.9 million plan for a fiber-optic internet network to serve its members across the county with promised speeds of 1gbps with no data caps.  The expanded service, which he anticipates being completed by the end of 2018, will cost members $59.95 per month for fast and reliable Internet service, a commodity that county residents have been requesting for many years.  (Parker Fish/AllOTSEGO.com)

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In Oneonta, Faso Explains Vote On GOP Tax-Cut Bill

In Oneonta, Faso Explains

Vote On GOP Tax-Cut Bill

Congressman John Faso, R-19, is at Otsego Now’s headquarters at 189 Main St., Oneonta, at this hour, discussing his vote against the Republican tax-cut bill in Congress last week. Participating are, from left, NBT Bank Regional Executive Jamie Reynolds, Country Club Automotive proprietor Tom Armao and Jeff Haggerty of Haggerty Ace Hardware, Cooperstown. With her back to the camera is Julie Dostal, LEAF executive director.  Faso issued a statement after the vote saying, while he supports simplifying the tax code, removing the SALT deduction for state and local taxes, as well as the mortgage-interest deduction will be too much of a burden on his 19th District constituents. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
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